Are you headed to the SOLD OUT Quirk’s Event? Make sure you attend my presentation on February 23rd. I’ll be sharing ways you can create strong connections with your consumers.
For a little preview of some of the things I’ll be talking about, I’ve posted a copy of an article I wrote for Quirk’s below. See you in Brooklyn!
Moving Beyond Technology to Connect with Consumers
Article ID: 20160126-01
Author: Kelley Styring
In the classic movie, The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy and her friends are admonished by the Great and Powerful Wizard to “pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!” But Dorothy’s dog Toto pulls back the curtain anyway, revealing the very ordinary human hiding behind his technology and distancing himself from the real individuals seeking solutions to their very real problems.
Don’t get me wrong – I use technology all the time in my research. Today’s technology offers unlimited opportunities to reach wider, farther and faster. But sometimes I see technology getting in the way of true connection with – and understanding of – consumers and their needs. As a result, no one wins: not the consumers and certainly not the companies seeking to make better products and more profits.
There are two ways technology can be a barrier: First, it often feels like we’ve forgotten that behind all those eyeballs, likes and personas are real people. People who have feelings, thoughts, needs and ideas. People who choose to bring our products and services into their lives and their families.
Second, I’ve seen technology being used to – well – hide from our consumers like the wizard. We go behind more than just the glass to distance ourselves (and thus our brands) from the very people with whom we want a strong connection.
We have at our disposal unlimited opportunities to connect with consumers on multiple platforms at any time of the day or night. Unfortunately, the human brain hasn’t evolved as rapidly as technology, and deep, rich, meaningful connection often remains elusive. So, how can we engage more effectively?
Step away from the iPhone
Remember, communication takes place between people, not devices. And one of the most effective ways to communicate is through a story.
For millennia, people have shared stories to make sense of the world around them and to establish strong connections with other people. From Aesop’s fables to Jesus’s parables to Dr. Seuss’s books, stories are social currency. Just like the tribes of old, common stories bind families, religions, schools, companies, social clubs and other groups of people together. Stories create a common culture of understanding, impart lessons and establish an authentic, emotional connection.
In order to better engage with people and develop authentic communication with them, we need to go beyond the data and:
- better observe the behaviors of our consumers;
- experience the real-world conditions in which products/services are used;
- tap into the consumers’ mind-set, values, interests and beliefs;
- reflect the consumers’ own stories back to them; and
- ultimately, create a culture of empathy with them.
For example, I brought team members into the homes of mothers of triplets to observe how they change diapers. Well, as you can imagine, it didn’t take long for the team member to be handed a baby and realize that you’ve got to hold onto that squirming infant with one hand while trying to change its poopy diaper. If you don’t pre-plan (diaper, wipes, ointment), you could quickly find yourself in trouble.
That exercise allowed the engineers and marketers to encounter their product through the lens of consumers and vicariously experience their feelings and thoughts while using it. That ultimately translated into product improvements and better marketing messages that resonated with consumers.
Fanatics expose opportunities
My latest syndicated study – Fanatics: Understand, Connect and Grow – explored tattoos. Not just any tattoos; people who have tattooed a brand name or logo onto their body. This is a level of connection that takes brand loyalty to a whole new level.
What I found was that brand tattoos tend to provide a tribal functionality. Either:
- a group got the same tattoo together, marking each person as a member of a tribe and substantiating their existing behavior; or
- an individual got the tattoo to symbolize something in which he or she is deeply interested and uses it to attract others with a similar interest.
Additionally, the tattoo’s placement indicated how it was used to communicate with others. If on a private body part, it was intended for communicating with existing tribe members. If on a public body part, it was intended to instigate conversations with others who may also have similar interests.
Obviously, these are consumers who have deep connections with a particular brand. What this study uncovered were ways that brands can use the stories behind these deep connections as stimulus to create conversations with other, less-committed consumers and invite them to become more closely tied to the tribe.
Know your humans, grow your tribe
If social media has taught us anything, it’s that people gravitate to others who share common values, interests and beliefs, even if they are separated by geography or demographics. And if a brand wants to grow its tribe, that brand needs to not only find people with those same values, interests and beliefs but also establish connection points with them. I like to call it knowing your humans.
From a research perspective, knowing your humans allows you to: create hypotheses, test those hypotheses quantitatively and, most importantly, to see if those hypotheses are resonating with enough people to build your business.
Recently, I worked with a client to go beyond the statistics that simply identify the number of clicks a particular offer received. Together, we experienced their product through the real experience of their consumers. We witnessed the joy, the challenges and the disappointment these people undergo. We learned how their product fits into – or doesn’t fit into – the lives of these people. As a result, we brought that nameless, faceless data to life and inspired the entire team to make improvements that will lead to greater connection and more profit.
In a world of high technology and big data, it’s easy to lose that genuine, engaging, empathetic connection with our consumers. Get to know your humans and get it back.